In summer 2011, I was proposed to score a very special project. I was commissioned to compose the music of the Hallmark “Jingle All The Way” animation special which premiered on the Hallmark Channel on November 25th 2011, and then played several time all through out the holidays.
Working on “Jingle” lead me to a wonderful collaboration with director Chel White, whose work I already admired for a couple years prior to meeting with him. So working with Chel is kind of a dream come true. His studio is the one that produced the film, Bent Image Lab, one of the best stop motion animation studios in the US.
Scoring the film had its own challenges of course. First of all, The film — about 22 min running time — needed constant music. All orchestral. The version of the film I was scoring still had story board inserted for scenes that weren’t done yet. So for example one shot was having the animation, but the next one would be rough black & white drawings moving. However they would last the exact length of what the animated scene is supposed to be. All dialogues and sounds FX where in place as well, so that was helping a lot.
This is where working with Chel was great. He knew exactly what he wanted and was very good at leading me into what the music should accomplish for the pictures. This score is definitely the fruit of my collaboration with him. One other challenge that I also had to deal with, is that “Jingle” is part of the whole “story bud” product line, which at the beginning started as a book and an interactive plush toy, that reacts to certain key sentences when you read the book. Well, so is the film! The kids are supposed to watch the film with the plush, and certain dialogues in the film trigger the puppy plush to bark and make all sorts of noises at those moments. My responsibility as the composer was to make sure that the music does not interfere with that process at those very moments. And it was tricky… it was hard to determine which type of instrument/frequencies were interfering (high violin lines were most of the time the killer), so I had to take it into consideration while scoring the film.
I was invited to go down to Portland, OR and visit the animation studios, and saw pretty much an army of artists at work! It was like walking into Disneyland. Man, a live “Making Of”! I saw all the machines involved to take the shots, the lights, the multiple sets, how they make the puppets from the metal articulated skeleton to the silicon used to make their skins! It was awesome.
As Chel was giving me the tour, I just couldn’t help but notice all these bags and buckets full of… powdered sugar! Lots of it. I mean, TONS of it! What could they possibly use it for?? Well guess what… in “Jingle All The Way” there is a lot of… SNOW. Yes, snow. That’s how the snow you see all along the film is made: with powdered sugar. As the people at Bent were telling me more about it, I ended up hearing stories about ants problems etc… imagine that. I asked Chel “Does the company you order all that sugar from have any idea what you are using it for?” and he replied with a smile “probably not” 🙂
In the end the whole project turned out fantastic! The New York Times called it “By far the best of the bunch!” in their review of all the animation films for the holidays (You can check out the review here: http://tv.nytimes.com/2011/11/24/arts/television/jingle-all-the-way-the-elf-on-the-shelf-and-more-christmas-cartoons-television-review.html). See for yourself on this video below: a 3 min little overview of the whole film, featuring some of the music I composed:
You can also listen to more music from “Jingle All The Way” on my website (http://www.charleshenriavelange.com)
Of course, being the composer of this film leads to cute little trivias, such as the one time I walked by a Hallmark store in Seattle with my wife: We were looking at the display with the whole Jingle set — Plush, book and DVD — and an old lady comes to me saying “Isn’t it adorable? Have you seen it?” and I replied “Oh I am glad you like it so much, I made the music for it!”. She stared at me for a few seconds, completely immobile just like she could have seen a ghost… only to finally answer “Well, congratulations, young man!”
But then you also browse the internet and find the cutest things just like the video below, where young Lukas’ REAL husky pup named JAX interacts with Jingle (and what a thrill to hear the music through his TV’s speaker!!)